The Humboldt Fitness Center builds on prairie vernacular with diamond-shaped weathered steel

A Prairie Home Companion

The Humboldt Fitness Center builds on prairie vernacular with diamond-shaped weathered steel


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The Humboldt Fitness Center marks the arrival into Humboldt, Kansas, from the north on the old Highway 169. The new Highway 169 passes the town by, just over a mile to the east. In small towns like Humboldt (population 1,789), it’s easy to feel like the future is passing by, too, as young people take off for big cities; but as the new fitness center indicates, companies and communities are working together to maintain local identities and quality of life in rural America.

The 11,000-square-foot fitness and community center, designed by Kansas City-based firm Hufft, nods to the local barn vernacular in its extruded form, which is largely clad in standing seam Firestone panels. But it’s the east and west facades that visitors will likely notice first. There, diamonds of copper-tone mild steel panels clad folded surfaces sliced by glazing.

Siding diagram of a tessellated facade
The design team developed the final facade by working with the capabilities of the local fabricators. (Courtesy Hufft)
  • Facade

    B&W Trailer Hitches
    Firestone Building Products
  • Architect
  • General Contractor
    Crossland Construction
  • Location
    Humboldt, KA
  • Date of

  • System
    Custom rainscreen
  • Products
    Firestone UNA-CLAD UC Panels
    Custom mild steel panels

Hufft wanted the building to capture the fabrication culture of the industrial and agricultural town, and the diamond pattern of the facade was a nod to the fabrication capabilities of B&W Trailer Hitches, the Humboldt-based business that funded the center and made the steel panels.

“It started with a tour of [B&W’s] factory and getting to know what its capabilities are,” Hufft president and creative director Matthew Hufft said. “We worked with their technical department to iterate different options. There are several different types of fabrication techniques used, showcasing the company’s capabilities.” From fabrication to the installation of the panels, B&W was involved every step of the way.

“We did several options, and then [the B&W] technical department took over and refined the options into an outcome they felt was the best balance between showcasing their capabilities and being relatively simple to fabricate,” Hufft said. The result is a simple but bold construction that complements both the metal of the rest of the exterior and the light-colored woods of the interior, and will gently weather over time.

Hufft principal Matthew Hufft will present the Humboldt Fitness Center during Facades+ Online Kansas City on July 31 as part of the “Experimentation and Advancements in Fabrication” panel.